Really there are two ways sign makers nowadays go about their work. They either use vinyl or large format printers which print in UV stable inks in full colour direct or on to a self adhesive sticker and then apply to material .
Good premium vinyl can last 10-12 years before fading however whilst there is a big range of colours, it can still be limited. If you want to incorporate an image or cannot find a vinyl to match then large format is the option lasting 3-5 years before fading commences pending how much direct sun is exposed to.
What is incredible now with large format is the range of different materials and applications with a selected few sign makers being able to print white down as a base. I've seen amazing artwork on wood and the heads in these good machines can also reach depths enough to print directly on say a door, corrugation metal. Then there are fabric printing for flags, trestle tables but also some incredible tent like configuration structures that a car could fit under. What is coming out of Europe is amazing great for expos, and product launches - stay tuned.
From a design point of view there is a great scope for us to work with and get creative.